Modi government ministers should take a leaf from the younger Doval’s playbook and stop the demonisation of Pakistan and Pakistanis.
When it comes to Pakistan and Pakistanis, the Bharatiya Janata Party doesn’t believe in mincing its words.
If the BJP loses the Bihar elections, party president Amit Shah famously declared in 2015, celebrations will break out all over Pakistan. Those who don’t vote for Narendra Modi, said Giriraj Singh, a BJP leader who is now Central minister for small and medium enterprises, should be packed off to Pakistan. Those Indians who insist on eating beef should go off to Pakistan or some Arab country, said Central minister and senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. He didn’t suggest China, South East Asia or the West as a destination – these are all places where more beef is eaten than the ‘Muslim’ places he named – because ‘Pakistan’ occupies a special place in the BJP’s geography of hate. Some time ago, V. K. Singh, junior minister in the Ministry of External Affairs expressed his “disgust” at attending a function at the Pakistani high commission.
Building on restrictions that began to be imposed after 26/11, the Narendra Modi government has clamped down on the granting of visas for Pakistani citizens and Pakistani-origin nationals of third countries, most of whom find it next to impossible to visit friends, family and business associates in India.
In 2016, Shiv Sena and BJP trolls – including the party’s Mumbai chief, Ashis Shelar – ganged up against Karan Johar’s film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, for featuring a Pakistani actor. In the face of a potentially violent boycott, the Bollywood director was forced to record a statement promising never to work with Pakistanis again. “For me, my country comes first… Going forward, I would like to say that of course I wouldn’t engage with talent from the neighbouring country given the circumstance … I respect the Army.”
Hopefully, this McCarthyite witch-hunt of Indians who have friendships or business associations with Pakistanis will now end given the recent ‘revelation’ by Aam Aadmi Party leader Ashish Khetan that the business partner of national security advisor Ajit Doval’s son is a Pakistani.
Gemini Financial Services is the company that Shaurya Doval, son of national security advisor Ajit Doval, runs, along with Syed Ali Abbas and Prince Mishaal Bin Abdullah Bin Turki Bin Abdullaziz Al Saud. His other ‘job’ is running the India Foundation think-tank, which has four Union ministers as directors, including defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The India Foundation was co-founded by Shaurya Doval along with BJP general secretary Ram Madhav.
The Dubai based Abbas is the chief executive officer of Gemini Corporate Finance in DIFC Dubai. An MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School, Abbas partnered Doval at their earlier company Zeus Capital, and has also worked at ABN Amro, Ernst & Young, Cargill and PWC. He is a founding member of the Global Blockchain Business Council, where he is listed as representing Pakistan. Other than this reference, I have not been able to come across any other information about his nationality.
BJP hot-heads who see every Pakistani connection as a sign of treachery have remained silent on the partnership between the NSA’s son and Abbas. This could either mean that the party is finally adopting a mature stand on people-to-people relations between Indians and Pakistanis – that whether your business is making movies or making money, it’s OK to work with Pakistanis – or that it has decided to swallow its prejudices given Shaurya Doval’s connections to the PMO and RSS.
Swati Chaturvedi is a Delhi-based journalist.